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November 12, 2017

On Friday, April 27, 2007 the IAABO Black Caucus provided the delegates who had gathered in Mystic Ct. an opportunity to hear a seminar that was titled “What It Takes To Get To The Next Level.” The panel that was involved in this discussion were all individuals that had reached a level of success in officiating and could speak from experience on the topic of reaching the next level. This distinguished panel included Donnee Grey and Reggie Greenwood who have worked the NCAA finals and the NCAA Final Four respectively, Matt Boland, who has worked as an NBA official for the past five  years, David Walker, a Division One official who has also officiated in the IBL and the USBL, Jeffrey Smith, a WNBA official who also works several D-1 conferences.  Last but not least, we had Cecil Watkins who is President and CEO of National Pro-Am and is responsible for a significant number of officials including Ronnie Nunn making it to the NBA.

The panelist spoke with passion and conviction regarding their opinions. The general consensus among the panelists was an official had to have a passion for officiating if the official desired to reach the Division One level or above but officiating had to be placed fourth in importance with your integrity being number one, your home (wife and family) being number two and your job being number three. Reggie Greenwood made it a point to say “If you lose your integrity, you won’t have much of a future in our avocation.” The following is a summary of some of the points that were covered by the panel. These points included mentoring, the understanding of the rules, and the role of camps in the advancement process, goal setting, and respect for your partners.

It was stated that it is up to a young official to seek out a mentor and not, vice versa. This mentor should be a senior official who has achieved a level of success as an official. He or she should have the knowledge of the ins and outs of officiating to guide the younger official along his career path. Be sure to obtain advise from this person whom the official can trust. They should be able to tell the official the “unvarnished” truth regarding their abilities. The most important point regarding mentoring is to listen to the advice that the mentor is giving.

The panel felt that to make it to the next level, an official had to have a thorough understanding of the rules. There are no exceptions regarding this caveat. An official who is moving in the D-1 arena cannot afford to misinterpret a rule during a game. There is too much at stake at that level to allow an official just starting to have an incomplete understanding of the rules therefore, staying in the rulebook and casebook is a must.

Their comments concerning camps were noteworthy. They said that camps are an integral part of the climate for advancing in officiating today. Matt made it a point to say that if an official is going to advance, he or she must go to camp. David Walker stressed that there are two types of camp. There are the instructional camps where an official is taught to develop their skills and there are camps that David Walker rightly describes as “job interviews.” These camps want to know if you are “ready”. They are not interested in training you. Since you will represent them (i.e. the conference), they want to know what kind of person you are. At these camps, you are being evaluated 24/7i.e. from the time that you come into camp to the time that you leave an official is being observed. Jeff Smith’s contention was that when you go to an instructional camp, “learn something”. At these camps “they need to see how you work, how you hustle, how well you run. There needs to be something of you that they can point out that says, I recognize that official for this reason….Nothing flamboyant, just totally managing the game.” The last but most important point regarding camps is don’t attend to an exposure camp that you are not ready for.

Officials who want to reach the next level have to be goal setters. They should set short-term goals (i.e. h.s. varsity and/or championships), intermediate goals such as state championships and long term goals (i.e. D-1). Each of these goals should be viewed from the perspective of being realistic or unrealistic. If the goal is realistic, then the official should “go for it”. If it isn’t, then the official should readjust their priorities. Once a goal has been reached, there has to be a “reset”. Intermediate goals become short term and long-term goals become intermediate.

It was stated that the top officials give respect to one another. If the top officials give respect, shouldn’t this be an example of how the younger officials should interact with their partners? The term “we” should be an integral part of conversations with partners for example; “Did we get that play right?” Do we have control of this game?” How/why/what do you think we should …?”

Most of the comments that were offered were not new. I’m sure that they have been repeated in IAABO boards throughout the country. If you are a veteran official, look to be a mentor to a young official and hopefully, be a “good partner” when you are working your ballgame no matter what level the game is. If the reader is a young official, it behooves you to heed the advice that these veterans have offered. Their advice can only assist them in climbing the ladder of success towards whatever goals you may set.

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